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tv   Washington Week  PBS  April 5, 2019 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT

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robert: president trump changes course but sticks to his hard line. i'm robert costa, welcome to "washington week."ip brinkmant the southern border. president trump threatens to close it, then backs off. president trump: i may shut it down at some point but i'd rather do tariffs. robert: the attorney general under pressure as democrats request the mueller report and the president's tax returns. evel ofs rise to a presidential in all of this. show us the mueller report, show us the tax returns. robert: plus, the former vice president's conduct faces scrutiny as he nears a 2020 run. >> it is incumbent on me, i think everybody else, to make sure that if you embrace someone, if you touch someone,
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it's with their consent, regardless of your intentions. robert: next. announcer: this is "washington week." funding is provided by -- >> kevin. >> kevin. >> advice for life. life well planned. learn more at >> babbel, a language program that teaches real life conversations in a new languag such as spanish, french, german, italian and more. babbel's 10 to 15-minute lessons are available as an app or online. more information on nouncer:additional fundi is provided by -- koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, comintted to bricultural differences in our communities.
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the corporion for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington, moderator robert costa. robert:good evening. president trump came close to shutting down the u.s.-mexico border, even as advisers and business leaders warned him that it would rock the economy. then he backed away. g e mexico, quote, a of-year warning, warning auto tariffs and shuttered border if they don't crack down on migration. president trump:ur country is full, our areas are full. the sector is full. n't take anymore, i'm sorry. can't happen. so turn around. robert: joining me tight, katty kay, anchor of "bbc wor a news america host of "beyondbeyond 100 days."
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geraldeib, executive editor for the "wall street environmental protection agency, white house reporter for "the washington post" "the washington post" and geoff bennett, white house n correspondent f news. ousef, you're at the white day in, day out, tracking this president. what led him to back away from the decision to close the border? off: you had mitch mcconnell on the hill making clear the threat t close the border would cause disaster. there are a couple things that account for his hard-line approach and his trip to the border today. one, absent any domestic agenda, the president is returning to an issue he thinks works for him and on the political o atmospheri it, when you've engaged in the demagoguery in the issue of immigration the way the president has, he makes it so he can't reposition or find
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common ground because to do anything less than pursue one of the positions he's staked out would seem as he's capitulating to his base. robert: did mexicots change behavior at all? the president said mexico has been helpful this week. is that accate? geoff: a couple of experts said the pre rdent washt on the numbers, saying that mexico apeoehended 1400e in the last couple of days. that's true, but it's also true that mexic has had tough immigration enforcement since 2014 so there is no causality between the president's tough rhetoric and anything new mexin authorities are doing they've been doing it all along. robert: just because the president backed away fro his decision to close the border doesn't mean he's suddenly upending his immigration policy. on friday morning, president trump announced he's pulling the nomination of ronald vityellow to lead u.s. immigrations a
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customs enforcement, i.c.e., saying he wants someone tougher. "the washington post" reporting that steven merrill -- mill was unenthused about the nomination. a white house official said stephen wantso t put attila the hun as director o i.c.e. ashley, how much isiller shaping immigration policy at this time and what does it reveal to have this nomination pulled? miller hasphen always been the driving force on immigration and throuout the presidency, it seems the president will flirt a little t with democrats, maybe offer up something on daca and wheul he'sd back, it's stephen miller. the president's gut instinctats far right, a position he's taken for decades, if you read
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his books, what he's said befoph. but it's s who has always been doing this but to see this nomination pulled, miller iseh absolutelyd this. he was one of the people in the president's ear about this at" "the p also reported that the president in t ovalffice told a group of people that stephen miller is in charge of immigration now. tole it was always the cas have the president codify it in the oval was office, elevates stephen even more as we head into 2020 where immigration will be a divisive issue that the president tries to inflame. robert: democrats are calling s r increased attention to the humanitarian cri the border where many migrants from central america are seriously ill or in need of medical care including children. and theemocrats are fighting the president's use of executive power and planning to file a
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lawsuit to block the administration from diverting money to pay for the barrier. in the addition to the lawsuit, from the house democrats, a coalition of twentd states -- 20 states is challenging the trump administration's the trump admtration says, based on the data, there is a surge of migrants at the border but the democrats say it's a and notrian crisi enough is being done. is that message being heard? katty: it seems there has been a surge. some immigration expts say this happens around springtime, it's not uncommon to have a huge oup of people coming. some people on the border are saying they've been hearing back at home in guatemala and honduras and el salvador, the border might close so they're trying to get here before the border is closed. one thing immigration experts say you need to deal with the crisis on the border is more judges to process asylum seekers so when the president said we
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leds court involvement, immigration experts say we need more court involvement, more judges to process t asylum seekers. the other thing the presint said is that he would cut aid to the three countries driving much of the immigration. it is not just single mexican men as people from those untries. cutting aid may hurt the situation as people looking at immigration, whether fromure or the middle east or africa, or central america, will tell you,d you have tl with the source. if you're going to address the migration issue, it'sot about walls or borders but what happens t source. robert: gerry, you also had the esident stepping back from his decision on healthcare. he called for a new republican healthcare plan then said we're going to punt it until after the 2020 elections. you couple that with the decision on thehaorder,is it telling us about this
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presidency at this time? gerald: first of all, i sense a frustrated president. i still to deal with mueller report so i'll tank the the -- change the subject to healthcare. i really am frustrated by the border so i'm going to stake a new position on mexico. i think it's a sign of austration. i also have sense of a president unbound, unfettered donald tru s. you've beeing this all year that he's been much ofst his f two years constrained by, sta by john kelly, the chief of staff to some extent. that's gone now. he's in a sense his own domestic policy director and foreign policy director and he's saying what's on his mind whether on twitter or live and if he has to rollback the next day or the next week, o fine, i'll movn to the next one and i think you're seeing pure trump. katty: it'nt also anesting relationship with the republican party over the last week because on two big issues,eahcare
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and the border, he has had to roll back after pressure. robert: specifically mitch mcconnell, majority leader. what is mcconnell's power right now? skatty: mcconnell has alw had this close influence with president trump because in a way he spent the first two years doing what president trump wanted so it gives him some clout and he has the republican party behind him particularly on the issue of thehe border business leaders are saying, you can't do this, the cure would be worse than the problem. >> what's fascinating is how often the congressional leaders of t's presidenly party on capitol hill are taken by surprise. it says something communication or lack of communication, lack of consultation. it's stunning. ashley: this is also what the president h to grapple with going into 2020, the rhetoric versus reality. so the rhetoric of healthcare, saying we'll cover all
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pre-existing conditions. the reality is it's difficult to craft a pan does that -- plan that does that and republics couldn't do that when they controlled both chambers of congress. >> the president often engaged in bumper sticker style politics where he throw p out aase that works on a bumper sticker but not investing in the nuances of it. in healthcare and immigration, he's taking up positions on two issues thatcahe repub party paid dearly for in the midterm elections. o>> there's a an element of thisim working for he made threats against the chinese and they came around on trade. the idea that you make threat and have to pull it back maybl sound ter but to him he may think, it's worked before. robert: we see another battleground this week n on immigration and healthcare but the mueller report. members of the robert's muell team reportedly frustrated with
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barrney general william who so far has only updated congress on the broad strokes of mr. mueller's investigation io russian interference in the 2016 election and possibleru obion of justice. the "new york times" reports associates are concerned that mr. barr's letter has given only a limited view of their findings, including summaries. a justice department spokesperson wrote that the report will not be released until it has beend revie and partially redacted. when you look at thepost" reporting and "times" reporting on the mueller team, 22 months without a leak from robert mueller's team. now based on these reports, they're talking to their friends at d.o.j., talking to other friends, newspapers are hring whispers. is there a crack finally? and is that frustration for real? ashley: there is a crack finally for those of us who for 22 months have been trying to find ways in and it cannot be
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overstated h striking this is. disciplin wildly shop and the fact that these frustrations are coming into public view reflects they are very real and mueller's team has beenery frustratedy the limited summary that barr has asven and one of the frustrations that they wrote those summaries that they felt pre camera-ready and ready to go in thelic and provide more nuance and context and to be clear, there was stu that needed to be redacted but their tinking wast could happen quickly. the justice department says redactions wou have taken a while but they think as much out as possible is the best possible thing especially if you look at the obstruction bucket was mixed from that summary, we understand, that it seems like mueller found some of evidence on one side and evidence on other side and couldn't reach a conclusion and there is thinkinb the americanc should know what is weighing the scale on each side.
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robert: democrats are suspicious, geoff, about attorney general barr. is there a cover-up? you've heard that word this from some democrats. other republicans are saying democrats are f: and democrats make the point that this whole thing adds to their argument that they need to see t entire report and all of the underlying evidence to figure out how br reached his conclusions surrounding the summary. barr has made clear what he will and willot release. democrats have issued subpoenas but whereas before in thead nistration's past, where the mere threat of congressional subpoena would be enough to compel an administration into complying, this white house has made it certain that they don't think they have to comply. gerald: i think he's too smart to mischaracterize the
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conclusions of the mueller report. i think we're talking about his attempt to control the release and also dealing with what i think is inevitable, that in three to 400 pages, there are bound to be embarrassing details for the president. so i'm distiuishing between what's in the report in full glory and what the bottom line conclusions are. i suspe b thetom line conclusions have to be correct but william barr has control over how much the restf it comes out. robert: we saw senator chuck grassley, a republican, call for th full mueller report to be released. is there a clamor on the g.o.p. side for moreos dise? katty: democrats talk about chuck grassley who would all like the mueller report to be released and i think we're in a battle over timing, timing of the summaries tha we understand from the reporting, the mueller teamctually provided, t level of redactions and then ofn possibly the issue whether mueller himself is asked to testify to answer questions
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if democrats still have them. robert: when you think about the democrats, geoff, they're not just looking report.mueller they're also requesting the president's tax returns this week. cheryl -- chairman richard neil of massachusetts sent a letter to the askin the president's tax returns from 2013 to 2018. do ehe democratsect to get them? geoff: i p think they'reparing for a protracted legal battle. sent this request not to the white house, but the i.r.s. when you hear donald trump say he's not inclinedpl to c this is one of the rare moments in the view of american life where the view of the president does not matter because the i.r.s. code writes that when the relevant committee requests the tax return of anyye tax the i.r.s. has to turn them over but the president has acquired a new
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legal team to prevent this. e democrats are saying they're doing this on the policy. they arguet they w make sure the i.r.s. is doing the job they're supposed to be doi i auditing a sitting president and vice president. katty: to which the president's new lawyers' response is why aro asking for the tax returns from 2013 to 2016, before he cameresident, if this is a itocedural issue. ashley: the house, for as unpleasant as both the tax returns andueller report, some potentianfyttering details may be, the white house has viewed this as awi political er because they say when democrats are issuing subpoenas and going after the president,it will look like overreach and what the president has been claiming for two years now, a witch hunt,, and that they can use that to dismisst not j the mueller report but any future
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investigations and fute misbehavior they don't like. rald: which is why chairman neil was reluctant to move ahead and ask for the tax returns. robert: is the chairman, chairman neil, speaker pelosi, they say they're doing it for policy reasons but are they also under pressure from the democratic base? gerald: a lot ofssure and they're resisting that pressure. i think you saw the speaker resist the pressure, impeachment, right up front, saying he's not wor it was the famous line. and chairman neil resisted for three, four months now. the base wanted him to go directly to the administratmen ately upon taking the majority in the house andsk for the tax returns and he said have be careful, whatever argument we make for why we should have the returns, will be challenged. katty: pelosi has to juggle with
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the base clamoring for more subpoenas, they also have t deal with those in trump districts who arem hearing f constituents that they want to move forward on issues like healthcare and education andec omics and jobs and they don't want to be talking about investigations non-stop. robert: catty noted the president has a new legal team but the white houseee to be preparing for this moment. the president was pushing inbr ry for the i.r.s.' chief counsel to be a trump ally. ashley: it's not a position you wouldxp necessarilyt the president to take acute interest in until you realize this is a person in power to make a key decision potentially defending, protecting the president and you understand that taxon have been he president's mind for some time. it gets to not just the issues in the white hou but president is someone whose sense of self is so tied up in his net worth, there's a number of reasons woe he't want his tax returns
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to come out. robert: in the letteto the i.r.s., you had the chairman pushing for more disclosure from thwhite house but y also had the white house asking their own response to that letter for the department of justice to weigh in so you have attorney general bi barr at the center of everything -- the tax returns and mueller report. let's leave that on the shelf because the 2020 presidential race is simmering. former vice president joe biden who advisers say could launch a campaign this month has long be a leading democratic contender in the polls but has faced allegations from women who say he inappropriately touched them. on friday, biden addressed the matter r duringarks at a union event in washington. >> i just want you tonow that i had permission to hug lonnie.t : he also said this. >> i'm sorry i didn't understand. i'm not second -- sorry for anym
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intentions, i'm not sorry for anything i've ever done. i've never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or woman. robert: katty, when you watch that clip, talking about he had permissionrom lonnie give them a hug and you see him kind of apologizing, whatoes it tell us about this possible candidate for the white house. katty: heas making a kin of joke about the whole issue of personal space and the acsations against him and actually if you listen to the recording of theeeoom, itd to go down pretty well. this was a largely, i understand, male ae and there was a lot of cheering when he made that joke and i think that gets to an interesting issue in the whole state that we are in between people who feel that the "me too" movement may have gone too far and now it is overcorrected and people who feel itasn't gone far enough and we need to push the issue of personal space and the other thing joe biden saidoming out of that is i am still a biden
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d obama democrat believe the democratic party is fundamentally the same. that's the challenge for joe biden. is the democratic party fundamentally the same? or has there been a real sea change int not j society but in the democratic party, that this is not ok and you are too out of touch and too old. geoff: i think he reazed that his attempt at humor was a miscalculation. i think democrats, progressive liberals, will have to figure t the acceptable level of political fragility because whoever emerges as the democratic candidate has to face donald trump who is politically shameless and bei politically shameless and using that as a cudgel against his perceived enemy and even this morning thed
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prt said he felt justified in mocking joe biden because people got a kick out of it. it's araught thing politically. ashley: that is what's so striking, when you have a president accused of sexual assaulty more than a dozen women, a president who on the "access hollywoo" tape, boasted about grabbing andng gro women and you have biden encountering his own problems with women, you don't expect that president or politician to eagerly leap into a public dialogue about sexual misbehavior but president trump is not any politicn and the democrats will have to grapple with asymmetrical warfare when you run against someone who is shameless. robert: does he sti run after all of this? gerald: it'se 95% s he runs
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but it's joe biden so the last 5% matters. i think so. there's enormous rndpect admiration and fondness for joe biden at the base of the democratic party and amongst important constituencies, african americans, african collarn women, blue workers in the industrial midwest that democrats have to get back from donald trump to wi the 2020 election. this gets to the point you were making, where's the energy in the democratic party? in 2018, many winning votes were moderate voters, soft republicans in the upper industrial midwest who switched back to democrats and those are joe biden voters. p robert: thty thought joe biden was the ticket to those voters in 2020. yet they have other contenders who fit a similar profile from thewe m, mayor mayor of south ben katty: joe biden has a bigger
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profile and better access to operatives than those cdidates do he has to get to the primaries. the issue osdonald trump i not really who he's running. again you could tell he's going to go out and say i can getchou an and wisconsin, basically. robert: thanks for being here. appreciatet. our conversation will continue on the "washington week extra." we will discuss a security breach at mar a lago and what it means for the president's security. watch it on wursite, facebook or youtube starting at 8:30 p.m. ery friday night. i'm robert costa. have a great weekend. announcer: corporate funding is provided by --
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>> babbel, a language program that teaches real life conversations in a new language such as spanish, french, german, italian and more babbel's 10 to 15-minute lessons are available as an app or online. re information on announcer:financial services firm, raymond james. additional funng is provided by -- koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, committedri toing cultural differences in our communities. the corporation fopublic broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, whic caption content and accuracy. visit] >> you're watching pbs. ♪
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